***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
October 26, 2016
Progressive Congress Condemns Incident in which African-American Student in Mississippi Had Noose Put Around His Neck
Washington, D.C. — Progressive Congress was appalled to learn that on October 13, an African-American student at Stone High School in Mississippi had a noose placed and then tightened around his neck by a group of white students. Mississippi has a fraught history of racism and mistreatment of black people that has continues to affect its educational institutions today. Progressive Congress joins the president of the Mississippi N.A.A.C.P. in urging federal authorities to fully investigate this heinous incident. This is not the only school in Mississippi that has dealt with recent incidents that harken back to a dark and dangerous time in the state’s past. Progressive Congress urges school officials to use the context of an educational setting to make this teachable moment for all students and educators alike. Tolerance and acceptance, like racism, can be taught, and high school is a critical time for young adults learning to navigate an adult world.
“Today’s political environment has created a climate of hatred that exacerbates incidents like this,” stated Dr. Gabriela Lemus, President of Progressive Congress. “How is it that an African-American high school student can be attacked by his peers who wrap a noose tightly around his neck and there is little response from school officials? How is it that the Stone County Sheriff's Department told the youth’s parents that it is better to not seek charges? We must ask ourselves what lessons we are teaching young people and what role educators can play to address bigotry in all its forms. I urge federal investigators to look into this challenging situation and help this divided community dialogue and heal.”
The symbolism of a noose and the act of mock lynching serve as a painful reminder that Mississippi still has not escaped its past, as a former slave state, a supporter of the Confederacy, and as a state in which government officials joined with white supremacists in suppressing the rights of black people. Decades ago during the Civil Rights Movement, white government officials enabled and even participated in a reign of terror to suppress the right of free black people to be treated as human beings, to attend the same schools, restaurants, and other public spaces as white people, and to vote. Mississippi’s history includes James Meredith, the first black person to successfully integrate an all-white university, as well as Emmett Till, who was lynched at only fourteen years old, supposedly for flirting with a white woman. Mississippi still contends with this complex history today, where it is the only state to still include the Confederate flag as part of the official state flag. Tightening a noose around a student’s neck is an act of racism that must be dealt with in the context of this history, but also in the context of shaping a better future for all of Mississippi’s residents.
School officials and the Mississippi government have the opportunity to condemn such acts and teach students the value of tolerance and acceptance rather than hate.